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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tri-Fold Wallet Tutorial Awesomeness

People always ask me how I learned to sew. What I tell them is that sewing, actual sewing-sitting in front of a sewing machine is only about 15% of the sewing process. Anyone can sew. You put your foot on the pedal and the machine takes off. Sure control and precision takes time and practice to learn but the real challenge is being able to understand how three dimensional things are constructed. If you can sit down and work out in your head how something can be put together then you can sew. I learned by ripping apart sweatshirts, messenger bags, pants, you name it...

This is what confuses me about patterns that you can purchase. Not the ones for clothes necessarily because if you don't know how to drape or pattern make using the body as your starting point you're probably not going to figure it out by sitting down and thinking about it. What I mean is patterns for bags, wallets, pencil cases, etc.: items that don't have sizing. If you make a bag too big it may be too big for what you intended it for but it's not that it doesn't 'fit'.

For this reason, you don't need a pattern to make any of these things. They exist all around you. Take a closer look at how something is made and you will easily begin to understand. Take a look at a tote bag, if you have an interest and spacial skills then you can figure out how to make your own. The trick is in the details: pockets, top stitching, lining, fabric, etc. These things are all up to you and the only instruction manual you need is your brain.

With that said I bring you an awesome tri-fold wallet tutorial that I made up with my own brain. I encourage you to not just follow the steps mindlessly but understand that I do each step the way I do for a reason. If you like bi-fold wallets better or you want your wallet taller, shorter, or to have different pockets I invite you to make it so. I apologize if it's too long but there are some complicated and important steps that I didn't want someone to miss if they decided to make their own awesome wallet. The excellence is always in the details, so pay attention and enjoy!!!!

What you will need (not everything is pictured): awesome fabric (a fat quarter), lining a fat quarter (you can use the same fabric or a matching solid color, I used a thin white coated nylon for some durability), scissors, olfa blade, guide, and mat (you can use fabric scissors for cutting but I find that using a grid and a rolling blade is much easier and more precise!), clear vinyl (for the ID pocket), a ruler, an air erasable marker (this will come in handy when putting on the binding tape), an iron and ironing board, 3/4" binding tape in matching color (I used nylon grosgrain ribbon for additional durability), matching thread, and stitch witchery (aka fusible bonding web) important this item is a MUST for making this wallet it will make your life 5,000 times easier.
Here is the pattern I made for my wallet. It is 9.5" wide and 4" tall (including seam allowance). You will need to cut 3 of lining for the cash section and back of the card section of the wallet. Cut 1 of fabric for the outside of the wallet.
For the pocket section I made 2 parts with card holders with 3 each at a mirrored angle. You can make yours straight or with less slots, whatever you like! The left is 4" x 3", the middle is 4" x 2 7/8", and the plastic piece is also 4" x 3". I lined the back of each pocket with the white nylon so cut all the pocket pieces 1x fabric and 1x lining. I did each angled pocket 1/2" apart so whether you have more or less pockets or want to change the style, measure and adjust accordingly. The places marked open will be pockets behind the card slots. *The asterisk is the pocket piece on the front. When the pockets have cards in them this piece will be the only piece you see so pick a rockin' part of the fabric to put there*
TIME TO CUT!! Cut your pieces!! Once the pieces are cut most of the guesswork is done. Phew!! Smooth sailing from now on (I hope!).
On top of the pockets mark 3/8" inside. This will be your guide for placing the binding tape. Cut a piece of binding tape long enough to cover the top.
Rip a piece of stitch witchery (yes it is magic) the length of the top of the pocket (this step will be repeated many more times but not shown).
Iron seam binding exactly to the 3/8" line drawn. When the stitch witchery is melty and secure flip over, add stitch witchery to other side with lining and press (this step will be repeated many more times but not shown).
Now that the binding is fused to the fabric and lining it will be a lot easier to sew. With a 3.0 stitch length sew about 1/8" from the edge on top and bottom side of binding tape. Do this with all of the pockets.
Once you have all the pockets done layer them up including the back rectangle fabric and lining and baste together.
This is what the left and middle sections look like when you're all done sewing on the binding tape.
Now it's time to put seam binding on the sides of the pockets. Start with the left section. Put seam binding only on the right side. The left side will be inside the seam allowance on the edge of the wallet.
Do the same thing you did for all of the pockets.
For the middle section put seam binding on both sides. IMPORTANT: when you sew the top stitch on the left side of the seam binding only sew the inside stitch. The outside you will sew down when you sew all the pieces to the back of the wallet to create a pocket for the middle section. (note: the sewing that is happening in the picture is wrong, do not follow, sew on the inside only)
Take the clear vinyl piece and sew seam binding on one of the long sides. You won't be able to use the stitch witchery since it won't stick to the vinyl but do the best you can. NEVER put a hot iron on top of the vinyl. It will ruin the vinyl and make a mess on your iron. Always use a press cloth if you have to press closely to the vinyl.
Now that you have all three pieces, take your two lining pieces and baste them together.
Then put the three sectional pieces on top of the lining, making sure the outside pieces match with the edges and that the middle piece is centered. When you baste the pieces on around the outside start at the bottom of the left section. Baste all the way around clockwise and when you get to the left side of the middle section change the stitch length back to 3.0 and sew up the outside of the seam binding (where you didn't sew that stitch earlier).
This is what you have now!! Doesn't it kind of look like a wallet??
Take the fabric for the outside of the wallet and the last lining piece and put seam binding on the top (the same way you've done a million times).
When you're done this is what it will look like!!
Take the wallet pocket pieces and the piece you just sewed and baste them together with the lining pieces together.
You just created the cash pocket, woot woot!! It's getting serious now...
This is probably the trickiest part. Since you are sewing together so many layers when you put the seam binding on you won't be able to get it to 3/8" on both the front and back. Get it as far as you can but make sure it's even on both sides so when you sew it down you catch both sides of the seam binding. Cut a piece of seam binding that will go around the sides of the wallet (not the top, obviously). Give yourself extra room since you will be folding the seam binding at the beginning and end of this piece of seam binding. Fold binding over at the top when you begin so there is no raw edge. Use the stitch witchery to secure the binding along the edge.
When you get to the corners smooth the binding so that there is no excess but so it is not pulling. You will fold the excess over when you sew it. Crease it as best you can for the time being. When you get to the other side fold the end of the binding over on itself and cut excess if there is more than about 3/4" on the folded side. You can make sure it stays folded with a little stitch witchery under the seam binding.
Sew around the outside starting at one end along the inside edge. Turn when you get to the other side and sew on the outside edge (just like all of the seam binding has 2 rows of stitching). Make sure to hit all the corners and not to make shortcuts, it will pay off in the finished look of your wallet. You can see the corners a little bit better here how they get sewn down.
YOU'RE DONE!!!! Oh my glob, pat yourself on the back and give yourself a high-five, you deserve it!! That was a lot of work (trust me, I know!!)
Stash your cards in the pockets and your ID for easy viewing in the clear pocket. Don't forget that cash!!!
Outside view. After you're done it helps to fold the wallet (usually left over right) and press the sides so it helps it to stay folded. After it's been sitting in your pocket or bag for a little bit it will learn to stay closed.
Folded view (see how nice is stays folded after I ironed it).
Don't forget about those awesome secret under pockets you paid special attention to. A great place to store some of your business cards for easy access or a card for your favorite restaurant that you can never remember the address for...

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial!!!! If you have any questions or need clarification on anything please don't hesitate to leave me a message and I will answer your question asap. Enjoy your new wallet!!!


  1. Super great tutorial. I made a wallet for my husband last Christmas. It turned out okay, but I wish I would have had this to follow! Maybe next year. :)

  2. I love it! I bookmarked the page so I can make it one day soon. My own store-bought wallet isn't in such good shape and I like that you can do this in any pattern you want. Thanks for the tutorial!

  3. That is SUCH a cute wallet!! I linked to your tutorial on Craft Gossip Sewing:
    (link will go live tomorrow morning)

  4. Thanks so much everyone!! I'm glad you like it!!

  5. Yo, this is a wonderful tutorial! Great pictures, too. Looks pro :). I know I'm a little late in finding it, but whatever - knowledge timeless! I'll be embarking on a wallet adventure tonight, and this definitely helped complete my understanding of the mechanics. I love your thoughts on world-dissection, too :). Thanks for making all this public!

    -love kael

  6. Hi Julie,

    Would you know where can I buy a rotary blade cutter or rolling blade? I am from the Philippines and it seems hard to find one here. I really like your tutorial because it is easy for me to follow espacially that I am new to sewing. Can you please let me know? This is my e-mail address -


    Shey Rogador

  7. I really loved reading your thoughts, obviously you know what are you talking about! Your site is so easy to use too, I’ve bookmark it in my folder
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